By Peter J. Smith

CONCORD, New Hampshire, November 25, 2009 ( – The New Hampshire Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of a ten-year-old home-schooled girl who was ordered into a public school by a family court judge, who decided that the girl, who is Christian, had not been exposed to enough alternative viewpoints.

The daughter of parents who divorced in her infancy, Amanda Kurowski had been ordered into public school by family court Judge Lucinda V. Sadler on the recommendation of Marital Master Michael Garner and the testimony of the girl's court-appointed counselor, the Guardian ad Litem (GAL), who argued that Amanda needed exposure to “multiple systems of belief and behavior.”

The GAL serves as a fact-finder for the court in developing a renegotiated parenting plan for Amanda's parents, who sharply disagree over Amanda's Christian-based home-school education. GAL reported that Amanda was found to “lack some youthful characteristics,” which the counselor attributed to her upbringing, testifying, “[Amanda] appeared to reflect her mother's rigidity on questions of faith.”

In conclusion, the GAL recommended to the Martial Master adjudicating the dispute that Amanda “would be best served by exposure to different points of view at a time in her life when she must begin to critically evaluate multiple systems of belief and behavior and cooperation in order to select, as a young adult, which of those systems will best suit her own needs.”

Amanda Kurowksi has been educated at home by her mother Brenda Voydatch since the first grade, learning her mother's Christian faith and values, while at the same time following the state's educational standards. However, the girl's father, Martin Kurowski, who has been divorced from Voydatch since 1999, opposes homeschooling on the grounds that Amanda does not experience “adequate socialization” and requested that she be placed in public school.

Voydatch tried to ameliorate her ex-husband's concerns by enrolling Amanda in Spanish classes, physical education and other extracurricular classes on top of her church and other extra-curricular activities, but homeschooling remained the prime issue in renegotiating the parenting plan.

Even though the court found Amanda to be well-educated and socialized, Sadler issued a July 14 order to have Amanda removed from her homeschooling environment on the basis of the Garner's recommendation that Amanda's “vigorous defense of her religious beliefs to [her] counselor suggests strongly that she has not had the opportunity to seriously consider any other point of view.”

The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a Christian public advocacy group, has intervened in the case on behalf of Amanda and her mother. 

“Courts can settle disputes, but they cannot legitimately order a child into a government-run school on the basis that her religious views need to be mixed with other views,” said John Simmons, a Hampton attorney allied with the ADF working on the case. “That's precisely what the lower court admitted it is doing in this case, and that's where our concern lies.”

The ADF says it is hopeful about the state high court's intervention, since the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled in 1982 that, “Home education is an enduring American tradition and right.”

Simmons stated that Sadler's court “illegitimately altered a method of education that the court itself stated is working.”

“It admitted the girl is 'well liked, social and interactive with her peers, academically promising, and intellectually at or superior to grade level,' but then it ordered her out of the home schooling she loves so that her religious views will be challenged at a government school,” said Simmons. “That's where the court went too far.”

Judge Sadler, who presides over the Family Division of the Judicial Court for Belknap County in Laconia, denied on September 17 a motion filed by Simmons to reconsider and stay her previous decision, declaring that Amanda “is at an age when it can be expected that she would benefit from the social interaction and problem solving she will find in public school, and granting a stay would result in a lost opportunity for her.”

“We are concerned anytime a court oversteps its bounds to tread on the right of a parent to make sound educational choices, or to discredit the inherent value of the home schooling option,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Mike Johnson.  “The lower court effectively determined that it would be a 'lost opportunity' if a child's Christian views are not sifted and challenged in a public school setting. We regard that as a dangerous precedent.”


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